Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Chapter 9

[Woodcut from the 1526 edition, printed in Seville by Jacobo and Juan Cromberger.]


How the Childe of the Sea did battle with King Abies in the war he had with King Perion of Gaul.

Once the battle between King Abies and the Childe of the Sea was arranged, as ye have heard, those on both sides saw that most of the day had already passed, so they agreed to wait until the next day, against the wishes of the two combatants. They could clean their weapons as well as treat their wounds, and because all the men on both sides were injured and tired and they wished to rest and recover, each side went to back to where they lodged.

The Childe of the Sea, riding bare-headed, entered the town with King Perion and Agrajes, and everyone in the town sang:

"Oh, good knight, God help thee and give thee virtue
that thou mayst end well what thou hast begun to do!
Oh, handsome knight! In him, chivalry gets its due
for he above all keeps it most noble and true!"

When they arrived at the palace of the King, a damsel came and said to the Childe of the Sea:

"My lord, the Queen asks you not to remove your armor until ye arrive at your room, where she waits for you."

This was agreed to by the King, who said:

"My friend, go to the Queen, and Agrajes may go with you to keep you company."

Then the King went to his rooms, and the Childe and Agrajes to his, where they found the Queen and many ladies and damsels, who took their armor. But the Queen would not allow anyone to touch the Childe besides her, and she removed his armor and covered him with a cloak. At this time the King came and saw that the Childe was injured, and he said:

"Why did ye not ask for a delay on the day of the battle?"

"That was not necessary," said the Childe. "There is no wound that would keep me from it."

Then they treated his wounds and they gave them supper.

The next morning the Queen came with all her ladies and found them talking with the King. Mass began, and after it was said, the Childe of the Sea armed himself not with the arms from the previous day, because nothing remained that was useful, but with others that were more handsome and strong. He bid goodbye to the Queen and the ladies and damsels, and he rode off on a well-rested horse that they had for him at the gate of the castle.

King Perion carried his helmet, Agrajes his shield, and old knight named Agonon, who was well-esteemed at arms, his lance. Because of Agonon's great nobility in the past, and for his courage as well as his virtue, he was the Childe's third, after the King and the son of the King. The shield that Agrajes carried had a field of gold with two blue lions in it, facing each other as if they wished to bite each other.

When they left the gate of the town, they saw King Abies on a large black horse, fully armed, though he had not yet strapped on his helmet. The villagers and the enemy soldiers arranged themselves to watch the battle as well as they could. The field had been marked and a stockade erected with many stands around it.

They strapped on their helmets and picked up their shields. King Abies put a shield around his neck with an indigo field that displayed a giant and a knight next to it who was cutting off its head. He used that insignia because he had fought against a giant that had entered his lands and left barren all that it encountered, and because he had cut off its head, he carried that feat's representation on his shield.

After both took up their arms, all others left the field, and each side commended its knight to God.

Without delay, they had their horses charge at a gallop. Since both were strong and wholehearted, at the first strike all their arms failed. Their lances broke, and both the men and the horses struck each other so hard that both were knocked off. Everyone believed they were dead. Pieces of the lance were embedded in their shields and the iron tips had reached their flesh.

But as both were agile and brave of heart, they quickly got up, removed the pieces of lance from themselves, and took their swords in hand. They attacked so fiercely that those who were around the field were frightened to see it.

Yet the battle seemed unequal, not because the Childe of the Sea was not well built and reasonably tall, but because King Abies was a palm taller than any other knight, and his arms and legs seemed to belong to a giant. He was well loved by his people and always demonstrated good conduct, except that he was more arrogant than he ought to have been.

The battle between them was both cruel and relentless, with no time to rest, and the blows were so great that they seemed more like twenty knights. They cut at each others' shields, which fell to the field in large pieces. They dented each others' helmets and rent each other's hauberks. Thus each made his strength and his passion known to the other. And the great strength and quality of their swords made their armor almost worthless, so that frequently they cut flesh, since nothing remained of their shields to protect themselves.

So much blood flowed that it was amazing they remained standing, but so great was the passion that each carried within him that they hardly felt it. And so they continued in this first battle until the third hour of the day. Neither weakness nor cowardice could be detected in either. Instead they fought with spirit, but the sun heated their armor and made them fatigued.

At this time King Abies stepped back and said:

"Wait and let us straighten our helmets, and if thou wishest, let us rest a bit. Our battle will not be delayed much. And although I would do thee mortal harm, I esteem thee more than any other knight against whom I have fought, though thou shouldst not take my esteem as a wish not to do thee ill, for thou killedst he whom I loved dearly and thou givest me great shame that this battle has lasted so long in front of so many good men."

The Childe of the Sea said:

"King Abies, this gives thee shame, but not having come arrogantly to do so much wrong to he who does not deserve it from thee? Thou shouldst see that men, especially kings, ought not do what they can but what they must, because often it happens that the harm and violence that they wish on those who do not deserve it in the end befalls on themselves and they lose all, even their lives. Now, if thou wishest me to let thee rest, there are others, greatly oppressed, who wish respite from thee, which thou wilt not grant, and because thou feelst what thou hast made them suffer, prepare thyself, for thou shalt not rest with my permission."

The King took up his sword and what little remained of his shield and said:

"This passion ill behooves thee, for it puts thee into a danger from which thou shalt not leave without losing thy head."

"Now use thy might," said the Childe of the Sea, "for thou shalt not rest until thy death comes to thee or thy honor is finished."

And they attacked with more wrath than before, and so bravely that it seemed that the battle had begun at that moment and they had not struck a blow earlier that day. King Abies, who was very skilled in the use of arms, fought wisely, protecting himself from blows and attacking where he could do the most harm. The Childe moved and attacked with amazing speed and struck so hard that everything the King knew seemed wrong. In spite of himself, things were going badly, and he began losing ground.

The Childe of the Sea had just destroyed the shield on his arm, and nothing remained of it, and had cut to the flesh in many places. The King's blood flowed freely. He could no longer attack, and his sword twisted in his hand. He was so afflicted that he almost turned his back to the Childe as he searched for a place of refuge in fear of his sword, which he felt so cruelly in his flesh.

But when the King saw that he had no choice but death, he turned, took his sword in both hands, and ran at the Childe, meaning to strike the top of his helmet. The Childe lifted up his shield, which took the blow, and the blade sunk so deep that it could not be withdrawn. As the King pulled back, he exposed his left leg, and the Childe of the Sea struck such that his leg was cut in half.

The King fell onto the field. The Childe came at him, pulled off his helmet and said:

"Thou art dead, King Abies, if thou dost not surrender."

He said:

"Truly I am dead, but not vanquished. Instead I believe that my arrogance killed me. I beg thee to pledge that my war party will suffer no harm and may take me to my homeland. I forgive thee and those whom I wished to harm, and I order returned to King Perion all that I took from him. I beg thee to let me make confession, for I am dead."

The Childe of the Sea, when he heard this, felt great and amazing sorrow for him, but he knew well that the King would not have sorrow for him if he had won.

Once all this had happened, as ye have heard, the invaders and the townspeople came together, since the safety of all was assured. King Abies ordered that everything he had taken from King Perion be returned, and King Perion pledged to him that all his troops would be secure until they had taken him to his lands. Then, having received all the sacraments of the Holy Church, King Abies's soul left him. His vassals, with great lamentations, took his body back to his lands.

King Perion and Agrajes and other outstanding men in his court took the Childe of the Sea from the battlefield with the kind of glory that the victors of such deeds usually earn, not only for the honor but for the restoration a kingdom to someone who has lost it, and they went with him to the town.

The damsel of Denmark, who had come on behalf of Oriana, as I have told you, arrived there just as the battle had began, and she saw it end in his great honor. She approached him and said:

"Childe of the Sea, speak with me privately, for I must tell you of your lineage, more than ye know now."

He received her well and rode with her through the fields. The damsel told him:

"Oriana, your beloved, sent me to give you this letter on which your name is written."

He took the letter, but he understood nothing of what it said, so altered was he when he heard the name of his lady mentioned. The letter fell from his hand, and the reins of the horse, and he was left senseless. The damsel asked one of the people who had watched the battle to give the letter to her, and returned to him. Everyone was watching what happened and marveling at the way the news she brought had disturbed the Childe. When she returned to him, she said:

"What is this, my lord? Do ye receive so poorly a message from the most noble damsel in the world, she who loves you dearly and who made me suffer so much effort to find you?"

"My dear," he said, "I did not understand what ye had said to me with this illness that I suffered, just as I have suffered it before you earlier."

The damsel said:

"My lord, ye need not hide anything from me, for I know more about your situation and about that of my lady than ye know. She wished me to know it, and I tell you that if ye love her, do not act half-blind, for she loves you so much that it cannot be easily told. Know that they have taken her to the house of her father. She sent me to tell you that when ye leave this war, go to Great Britain and seek to dwell with her father as long as she commands. She said to tell you that she knows that ye are son of a king, which makes her no less happy than you, and since even not knowing your lineage ye were so noble, now strive to be even better."

Then she gave him the letter, and said:

"See here this letter in which your name is written. Ye wore this around your neck when ye were launched into the sea."

He took it and said:

"Why, letter, how well thou wert kept by that lady who is my heart, by she for whom I have many times come to the point of death. But if I suffered pain and anguish for her, I am satisfied by an even greater joy. Oh, God, my Lord, when shall I see the time to serve that lady and repay this favor she has done me?"

He read the letter and learned that his true name was Amadis. The damsel told him:

"My lord, I wish to return to my lady, for I have executed her orders."

"Oh, damsel," said the Childe of the Sea, "by God, rest here for three days, and do not leave my side for any reason, then I will take you wherever ye please."

"I came to you," the damsel said, "and I will do nothing other than what ye command."

When they were done speaking, the Childe of the Sea went to the King and Agrajes, who were waiting for him, and they entered the village. Everyone sang:

"Come, good knight, and welcome!
Through you we have regained
our honor and our joy!"

And so they went to the palace, where in the Childe of the Sea's rooms they found the Queen waiting with all her ladies and damsels, in great merriment. The women raised their arms to take him from his horse, and the hands of the Queen removed his armor. Doctors came to treat his wounds, which were many, but none caused him great distress. The King wanted him and Agrajes to dine with him, but the Childe would only do it with his damsel to do her honor, for he realized she could remedy much of his anguish.

So he spent those days resting in great pleasure, especially because of the good news that had come to him. Neither the troubles of the past nor the injuries of the present could keep him from arising and walking through the halls with the damsel, always conversing, for he was having her wait until he could take up arms and leave with her.

But at that time an extraordinary event befell him that made him remain for some days longer while the damsel left from there alone, as ye shall now hear.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Gothic Romance Novel of Chivalry - a few definitions

[Tristan and Isolde with the Potion, by John William Waterhouse, 1916. Waterhouse (1849-1917) belonged to the later phase of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. The knight Tristan and Princess Isolde shared a love potion, which led to tragedy.]


Over time, the meanings of words can shift. Here are some words to watch out for:


Amadis would have understood that word in its most basic sense: an armed group of men on horseback. (It has the same roots as cavalry: "horse," cheval in French.) He also would have understood the term to encompass the rank and sacred responsibility that he assumed when he became a knight (caballero in Spanish), since in his day, as trained and well-armed soldiers, knights enjoyed both great esteem and great power.

Over time, as knighthood became more ceremonial, the term lost its lethal-weapons element and centered more on rank and honor, as well as on social elements such as courtesy, honor, and gallantry toward women.

These days, the meaning of chivalry sometimes settles on that last element: gallantry toward women. A chivalric man opens doors for them, pulls out their chairs, and such. Amadis might have been perplexed by that. He had servants to do those sorts of things.


Amadis of Gaul is a romance: It is a medieval popular fictional work of poetry or prose about chivalric heroism written in a vernacular, romance language such as French or Spanish rather than in Latin. These stories often include a love story as well as adventures and bloody battles. The tales of the King Arthur cycles were important medieval romances, inspiring medieval authors like Créchien de Troyes. Amadis, Tristan, Isolde, Merlin, the quest for the Holy Grail, the Knights of the Round Table, Lancelot, Guinevere, and Percival are elements of Arthurian literature.

As the centuries moved on, romance came to mean simply "novel," a work of book-length fiction.

These days, in English, romance refers almost exclusively to love and emotional attachment. According to the Romance Writers of America, "two basic elements comprise every romance novel: a central love story and an emotionally-satisfying and optimistic ending." Happy endings are not guaranteed in medieval romances.

The term romanticism refers to the artistic, literary, and intellectual movement in the second half of the 18th century in western Europe that stressed emotion rather than rationalism, and sometimes reached back to medieval romances and art for pre-industrial and pre-neoclassic "authentic" elements. Tales of King Arthur and his Round Table (though not the tales of Amadis) were revived by writers like Alfred Lord Tennyson, whose re-imaginations of the legends mark our Arthurian imagery to this day, as seen in the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

The romantic movement included the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood painters; the name Pre-Raphaelite refers to the Renaissance Italian painter Raphael (1483-1520).

Romanesque is a style of European architecture from the 11th and 12th centuries that contained Roman and Byzantine elements, such as barrel vaults.


This architectural style flourished in Europe from 12th to 15th centuries and can be easily distinguished by its pointed arches, distinct from Roman and Greek styles. But gothic can also mean "medieval." The first Goths were Germanic tribes who settled much of Europe after the fall of the Roman empire.

The 1765 novel by Horace Walpole, The Castle of Otranto, a Gothic Story, added the notion of terror and gloom to the definition of medieval, and soon gothic romances sprang up, which were a type of horror story, including Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and Bram Stoker's Dracula. These days, urban goths favor vampiric aesthetics.


The word novel as a name for a kind of book-length narrative comes from the Italian word novella, or "piece of news," since these books recount events, albeit fictional.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Chapter 8 [final half]

[The Battle of Hastings, from the Bayeux Tapestry.]


When morning came, King Perion and his wife went to see what the Childe of the Sea was doing. When they found him, he had risen and washed his hands. They saw that his eyes were red and his cheeks wet with tears, and he seemed to have slept very little during the night. In fact, that was so, for he had remembered his beloved and had thought of the distress that had come to him due to her, and that nothing besides death awaited him.

The Queen called Gandalin and said to him:

"My friend, what happened to your lord? It seems to me, looking at his face, that he is very sad. Is it for something here that has made him discontent?"

"My lady," he said, "he has been received here with great honor and favors, but he has the custom of weeping in his sleep, and that is what ye see now in his appearance."

And while they were speaking, people in the town saw many well-armed enemies nearby, and they shouted:

"To arms! To arms!"

The Childe of the Sea, who noticed the alarm, was very happy, and the King said:

"Good friend, our enemies are here."

The Childe said:

"Let us arm ourselves and go see them."

The King asked for his armor and the Childe his, and when they were armed and mounted, they went to the gate of the town. There they found Agrajes greatly vexed because no one would open it, since he was one of the world's most heart-strong knights and most eager to attack in every battle. If his strength had served him as well as his spirit, no other knight would have surpassed him in feats of arms.

As they had arrived, the Childe of the Sea said:

"My lord, order them to open the gate for us."

The King, who was no less pleased to fight, ordered it opened, and all the knights left. When they saw how many their enemies were, there were some who said that it would be madness to attack them.

Agrajes spurred his horse, saying:

"Now let there be bad fortune for whoever holds back!"

As he charged, he saw the Childe of the Sea go forward, and all followed him as one. Daganel and Galain, who saw them coming, prepared to receive them and do them harm.

The Childe of the Sea attacked Galain, who was coming toward him, and hit him so bravely that Galain and his horse were knocked to the ground and his leg was broken. The Childe had broken his lance, so he immediately put his hand on his sword and charged the opposition like an enraged lion, giving wondrous blows in all directions. Everyone who came before his sword was knocked to the ground, some killed and others injured. But so many attacked him that his horse could not move forward, and he was in grave danger.

Agrajes saw it and arrived with some of his men, and they caused great injury to their opponents. King Perion arrived with all his knights, brave and eager to take the offensive. Daganel and his forces received him with spirit. And so both sides joined together.

There ye would have seen the Childe of the Sea do amazing things, defeating and killing all those who he found before him, and no man dared to attack him. He came at the enemy, making them run, for he seemed like a brave lion. When Agrajes saw this, he became even more filled with ardor, and shouted to encourage his men:

"Knights, see the best and bravest knight that ever was born!"

When Daganel saw how he was destroying his men, like a good knight he went at the Childe of the Sea and tried to injure his horse so that the Childe would fall among Daganel's men, but he failed. The Childe gave him such a blow on the top of his helmet that its straps were snapped and it flew from his head. King Perion, who arrived to help the Childe of the Sea, struck Daganel with his sword and caused such a wound that it cleaved his head down to his teeth.

Thus they defeated the troops of Daganel and of Normandy, who fled to where King Abies waited, and many said:

"Alas, King Abies, why have you waited so long while they killed us?"

And so as King Perion and his troops continued their attack against their enemy, very soon King Abies of Ireland appeared with all his troops, who came saying:

"Have at them! Let no man live, and let us fight to enter into the town with them."

When King Perion and his men to their surprise saw those troops, who they had not known were there, many were frightened, for they were already tired, they had no lances, and they knew that King Abies was one of the best knights of the world and the one they most feared. But the Childe of the Sea began to shout:

"Now, my lords, we must keep our honor. Now we shall see who will disgrace himself!"

They had been spread out, but he made them regroup. The Irishmen came at them so bravely it was wonder to behold, because they came well-rested and with their hearts ready to do harm. King Abies left no knight in his saddle for as long as his lance lasted, and when he lost it, he put his hand on his sword and began to attack with it so fiercely that his enemies took fear. His men were at his side, and they injured and brought down so many of their opponents that King Perion's men could suffer no more losses, and they retreated toward the town.

When the Childe of the Sea saw that things were going badly, he began to attack with more rage than ever, so that the troops on his side would not retreat in disorder. He entered the fray between the two forces, injuring and killing the Irish to give his own side space so they would not turn around and expose their backs. Agrajes and King Perion, who saw him in such danger and fighting so well, remained always at his side. Thus those three offered protection to their men and kept the enemy engaged. King Abies ordered his men to advance, for he had spotted victory. If they could enter the town, he believed the war would be concluded.

So with haste, as ye now hear, they arrived at the gates of the town, where if it had not been for those three knights, the Irish troops would have entered with Perion's force. And these three had suffered so many blows and had given so many that it was a wonder they had been able to endure.

King Abies thought his men were among Perion's, but as he moved ahead he saw they were not, and he felt great grief at that and even more to learn that Daganel and Galain were dead. One of his knights drew near and said:

"My lord, do ye see that knight on the white horse? He does nothing but amazing feats, and he has killed your captains and many others."

He was referring to the Childe of the Sea, who rode on Galpano's white horse. King Abies approached him and said:

"Knight, by your doing, the man I loved most in the world is dead, and I will make you pay dearly if ye are willing to keep fighting."

"Now is not the time for me to fight with you," said the Childe of the Sea, "for ye have many well-rested men, and we few and very tired. It would be a miracle if we could defend ourselves. But if ye wish as ye say to avenge yourself as a knight and to show the great courage for which ye are praised, chose from your men those whom ye prefer and I shall do it among mine. Being equal, ye can win more honor than ye could by overcoming us by numbers and by the arrogance of coming for no reason to take that which is not yours."

"Then," King Abies said, "tell me how many ye wish to be in the battle."

"Since ye leave it to me," the Childe said, "I propose another deal that ye may find more agreeable. Ye hold great ire against me for what I have done, and I against you for what ye have done in this land. There is no reason for anyone else to suffer on our account. Let it be a battle between me and you, right now, if ye wish, provided your men and ours give assurance to do nothing until it is finished."

"So be it," King Abies said.

He called forward ten knights, the best he had, and with ten that the Childe of the Sea called, they guaranteed that no matter what happened in the field, no one would interfere. King Perion and Agrajes proposed that the battle not occur until the next morning, for they saw that the Childe was injured. But they could not dissuade him, for he desired the battle more than any other thing. This was for two reasons: one, to test himself against the man praised as the best knight in the world; and the other, because if he defeated him, the war would be over, and he could go to see his lady Oriana, for in her was all his heart and desire.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Why kings hunt so often

[From the facade Palace of Charles V, begun in 1526 and never completed, in the Alhambra, Granada, Spain. Photo by Cindy Van Vreede]


As ye have heard, kings, princes, and knights often go out hunting. This was not just to put meat on the table. Noccoló Machiavelli, in his 1514 book The Prince, explains why they should hunt, and it tells us something key about their role:

"Chapter XIV. How a prince should organize his militia

"A prince, therefore, must have no other object or thought, nor acquire skill in anything, except war, its organization, and its discipline. The art of war is all that is expected of a ruler....

"So he must never let his thoughts stray from military exercises, which he must pursue more vigorously in peace than in war. These exercises can be both physical and mental. As for the first, besides always keeping his men well organized and trained, he must always be out hunting, so accustoming his body to hardships and also learning some practical geography: how the mountains slope, how the valleys open, how the plains spread out. He must study rivers and marshes; and in all this he should take great pains.

"Such knowledge is useful in two ways: First, if he obtains a better understanding of local geography he will have a better understanding of how to organize his defence; and in addition his knowledge of and acquaintance with local conditions will make it easy for him to grasp the features of any new locality with which he may need to familiarize himself.

"For example, the hills and valleys, the plains, the rivers, and the marshes of Tuscany have certain features in common with those of other provinces; so with a knowledge of the geography of one particular province one can easily acquire knowledge of the geography of others. The prince who lacks this knowledge also lacks the first qualification of a good commander. This kind of ability teaches him how to locate the enemy, where to take up quarters, how to lead his army on the march and draw it up for battle, and lay siege to a town to the best advantage...."

translation by George Bull, available as a Penguin Classics book


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Chapter 8 [first half]

[Illustration from the Manesse Codex, created between 1305 and1340, Zürich.]


How King Lisuarte sent for his daughter from the court of King Languines, who sent her with his daughter Mabilia, accompanied by knights, ladies, and damsels.

Ten days after Agrajes left, three ships arrived carrying Walter of Rothwell with one hundred of King Lisuarte's knights with ladies and damsels to take Oriana home. King Languines received him well, for he considered him a good and prudent knight. Walter told the King the message he carried from his lord King Lisuarte, asking for his daughter, and for King Languines to send his Mabilia with Oriana, and King Lisuarte would order her to receive the same standing and honors as his daughter.

King Languines was very happy to hear that, and provided fine clothing for them. He arranged many feasts and favors for the knights, ladies, and damsels over several days in his court, and had more ships readied and supplied, as well as providing everything that seemed necessary for the trip for the knights, ladies, and damsels.

Oriana, who saw that she could not avoid the voyage, prepared to collect her jewelry, and as she did this, she saw the wax that she had taken from the Childe of the Sea. When she thought of him, tears came to her eyes and she wrung her hands in anxiety as love overcame her, and she broke the wax. She saw the letter that was inside it, and when she read it, she saw that it said:

"This is Amadis Without Time, son of a king."

With hardly a thought, she understood that the Childe of the Sea was named Amadis and that he was the son of a king. Happiness never filled a heart as it did hers. She called the Damsel of Denmark and told her:

"My dear, I want to tell you a secret straight from my heart, and I want you to keep safe, for it is about myself as a most noble damsel and the best knight in the world."

"I will do that," she said, "and, my lady, do not hesitate to tell me what to do."

"Well, my friend," said Oriana, "go to the new knight, whom ye know, and whom we call Childe of the Sea. Ye shall find him in the war in Gaul, and if ye arrive before him, wait for him. As soon as ye see him, give him this letter and tell him that he will find his name in it, which was written when he was thrown into the sea. Tell him that I know he is the son of a king, so while he was very good when he did not even know it, and he should try to be better. Tell him that my father has asked for me and they are taking me to him. Tell him that I sent you to say that when the war in Gaul is over, he should come immediately to Great Britain, he should try to take residence with my father until I tell him what to do."

The damsel, with this message that ye heard, was sent off on the road to Gaul, which will be spoken of in time. Oriana and Mabilia, attended by ladies and damsels, were commended to God by the King and Queen, and put on the ships. The sailors raised the anchors and set the sails, and as the weather was brisk, they traveled quickly to Great Britain, where they were very well received.

The Childe of the Sea spent two weeks recovering in the house of the knight and his niece, the damsel who tended to his wounds. Then, although the wounds were still new, he did not wish to remain there longer, and on a Sunday morning, he left with Gandalin, who never parted from his side.

It was April. When he entered a forest, he heard the birds singinging and saw flowers everywhere, and as love had him in its power, he remembered his beloved and began to say:

"Oh, ill-fated Childe of the Sea, heir to no one and nothing, how could thou hast been so brash as to place thy heart and thy love in the power of she who is worth more than all others in her virtue and her beauty and her lineage? Oh, slave of fate! For any of these three things even the best knight in the world should not be so bold as to love her. Her beauty outshines the best knight at arms. Her virtue is worth more than the riches of the greatest man in the world. And I, miserable, do not know who I am, and I live under the torment of madness, for I may die in love without daring to say it to her."

He rode on, lamenting, so blind that he noticed nothing beyond his horse, but when he looked at a thicket in the forest, he saw an armed knight on a horse awaiting an enemy, who had heard his entire lament. When that knight saw that he had ceased to speak, he rode up to the Childe and said:

"Knight, it seems to me that ye love your lady more than yourself, depreciating yourself and praising her. I want you to tell me who she is so that I can love her, because from what I have heard, ye are not worthy to serve such a high and beautiful lady."

The Childe said:

"My lord knight, reason obliges you to say what ye said, but ye know nothing of anything else. And I tell you more, that ye could gain nothing worthwhile by loving her."

"If effort and danger comes to a man," the knight said," a good lady must receive him with glory, and in the end he will get the prize that he hopes for. If a man of high nobility were to love like ye, there is no reason to be angered by what may happen to him."

The Childe of the Sea felt comforted when he heard this, and held that he would do well to think the same. He wanted to ride on, but the other knight said:

"Stay put, knight, for ye still owe me an answer to my question, by force or willingly."

"God help me not," said the Childe, "if ye were to know it willingly from me or from anyone else on my behalf."

"Well, then, ye are in battle," the knight said.

"It pleases me more to fight you than to tell you it," said the Childe of the Sea.

Then they strapped on their helmets and took up their shields and lances, and just when they were about to back up and begin their joust, a damsel arrived and said to them:

"Wait, my lords, wait, and tell me something if ye know it, for I must hurry and cannot remain until the end of your battle."

They asked her what she wanted to know.

"If one of you have seen a new knight named Childe of the Sea," she said.

"What do ye wish of him?" he said.

"I bring him a message from Agrajes, his friend, the son of the King of Scotland."

"Wait a little," said the Childe of the Sea, "and I shall speak to you of him."

He charged at the knight, shouting to him to prepare himself. The knight hit him in the shield so fiercely that his lance flew in pieces through the air. But the Childe of the Sea, who struck him full on, knocked both him and the horse to the ground. The horse got up and wanted to flee, but the Childe of the Sea took it and give it back to the knight, saying:

"My lord knight, take your horse and do not try to learn something from anyone against their will."

The knight took the horse, but he could not mount quickly, for he had been hurt in the fall. The Childe of the Sea turned to the damsel and told her:

"My friend, do ye know the man whom ye seek?"

"No," she said, "I have never seen him. But Agrajes told me that he would tell me who he was as soon as I told him that I served him."

"That is true," he said. "Know that I am he."

Then he took off his helmet and the damsel, when she saw his face, said:

"Surely, I know that ye speak the truth, for I have heard your handsomeness praised as a marvel."

"Well, tell me," he said, "where did ye leave Agrajes?"

"Alongside a river near here," the damsel said, "where he has his war party ready to take to the sea and travel to Gaul, and before he left he wanted to know if ye would travel with him."

"God give you thanks," he said, "and now guide me and we shall go see him."

The damsel lead him down the road and soon they saw the tents alongside the river and knights around them, but even as they were so near, they heard someone shout behind them:

"Turn around, knight, for ye still owe me an answer to my question."

He turned his head and saw the knight whom he had just jousted, with another knight. He took his arms and charged at them. They had lowered their lances, and their horses were running as fast as they could. The knights near the tents saw the Childe ride so well placed in his saddle that they marveled. And surely ye may believe that in his time, there was no other knight who rode better or who fought in jousts more beautifully, so much so that in some places when he tried to hide his identity, he was recognized by it.

The two knights struck his shield with their lances and it gave way, but his hauberk did not because it was strong, and their lances broke. He attacked the first one, whom he had previously defeated, and struck him so hard that he hit the ground, broke his arm, and lay there as if dead.

The Childe had lost his lance, but he put his hand on his sword and charged at the other and struck him on top of his helmet. The sword reached his scalp, and when he pulled the sword back, the straps broke and he tugged the helmet from his head. He raised his sword to strike, but the other knight raised his shield. The Childe of the Sea paused, and passing the sword to his left hand, grabbed the shield, and pulled it from the knight's neck. He hit him on top of the head with it, and the knight fell to the ground, stunned.

That done, he gave his arms to Gandalin and continued with the damsel toward the tents. Agrajes wondered who the knight was who had so quickly defeated the other two. He ran toward him, recognized him, and said:

"My lord, ye are very welcome."

The Childe of the Sea got off his horse and they embraced. And when the others saw that he was the Childe of the Sea, they ran to him very happy. Agrajes told him:

"Oh God, I have so much wished to see you."

Then he brought him to his tent, helped him disarm, and ordered to have the knights brought to him who were still in the field, injured. And when they were brought before him, he said:

"By God, ye were crazy to enter into battle with such a knight."

"That is true," said the one with the broken arm. "But earlier today I held him for so little that I did not think he would be able to defend himself at all."

And he told what had happened in the forest, though he did not dare speak of the Childe's lament. They all had a good laugh at the patience of the Childe and the arrogance of the other knight.

That day they rested comfortably, and the next day they rode, traveling so far that they arrived at Palingues, a good town that was the closest port to Gaul. There they got on Agrajes's ships, and with a good wind they passed quickly over the sea, and they arrived at a town in Gaul named Galfan. They traveled overland to Baladin, a castle from which King Perion was waging war. He had lost many men, so he was happy at their arrival. He gave them fine lodgings, and Queen Elisena sent word to her nephew Agrajes to come to see her. He asked for the Childe of the Sea and two other knights to come with him.

King Perion looked at the Childe and recognized him as the one he had made a knight and who had rescued him in the castle of the old man.

He went up to him and said:

"Friend, ye are very welcome, and know that I find such great striving in you that I no longer fear to lose this war, for I have you fighting with me."

"My lord," he said, "ye shall have me in your aid as long as my body shall last or until the war shall end."

So they spoke, and they arrived at the Queen. Agrajes went to kiss her hands, and she was very happy to see him. The King told her:

"Lady, ye see here the very fine knight that I spoke of, who saved me from the greatest danger I have ever been in, and I tell you to love this knight more than any other."

She came up to embrace him. He knelt before her and said:

"My lady, I am the servant of your sister, and for her I come to serve you, and ye may give me orders just as she would."

The Queen thanked him with much love. She saw how he was very handsome, and, remembering the sons that she had lost, tears came to her eyes. Thus she wept for a son who was before her, whom she did not recognize. The Childe of the Sea told her:

"My lady, do not cry. Soon your happiness shall return with the help of God and the King and this knight who is your nephew, and of me, who will serve you gladly."

She said:

"My dear, ye who are the knight of my sister, I wish you to stay in my house, and there they shall give you everything that ye need."

Agrajes wished to take him with him, but the King and Queen insisted so much that he had to grant their wish. So the Childe stayed in the care of his mother, where they did him many honors.

King Abies and his half-brother Daganel learned that these knights had come to King Perion. King Abies, who at the time was the most esteemed knight known, said:

"If King Perion has the heart to fight and is valiant, now he will want to do battle with us."

"He will not," Daganel said, "because he is very afraid of you."

Galain, the Duke of Normandy, who was there, said:

"I can tell you how to make him fight. Daganel and I will ride tonight, and at dawn we will appear at his town with reasonable number of men. King Abies shall remain with the other soldiers hidden in Galpano's forest, and this way we shall give him courage and he will dare to come out. We will seem afraid and will lead them into the forest to where the King is, and that way they will all be defeated."

"Well spoken," King Abies said. "So it shall be done."

Then they and all their men took up their arms. Daganel and Galain, who had offered the plan, entered into the forest and went well ahead, while the King stayed back. They waited there all night.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Knights never traveled alone

[A knight removing his hauberk, from the Morgan Bible, a medieval picture Bible, created in France in the mid-1200s.]


The word knight comes from the Old English word for "adolescent" because a boy would be knighted at about age 20. Chivalry comes from the word "horse." That's because a knight's horse distinguishes him from a common foot soldier and proves that he is a professional warrior. The knight also needed heavy weapons and armor, so battle horses were enormous, costly animals.

A proper knight also had a squire or shield-bearer, who was often a knight-in-training, along with up to a half-dozen other attendants to care for the horses and arms, guard prisoners, and help him get up onto the war horse, no small feat while clad in heavy iron armor. We rarely see them in Amadis, since servants in general are invisible in this work, and since the original audience knew what was going on in the background.

All this material and manpower was expensive. If money or even in-kind payments existed in Amadis, a lot of it would change hands. Knights in real medieval times maintained themselves by taxing land granted for their service and by holding captives for ransom.

In reality, knights were professional fighters, elite warriors who served a king or lord in exchange for fiefdoms or financial support. Training began as boys and was limited to nobles. The religious vow dignified their status beyond that of mere hired sword. Or it was supposed to. History tells us that some knights were better than others.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Chapter 7

[Woodcut from the 1526 edition, printed in Seville by Jacobo and Juan Cromberger.]


How three days after the Childe of the Sea left the court of King Languines, three knights arrived, along with another knight in a litter and his traitorous wife.

Three days after the Childe of the Sea left the house of King Languines, where he had been knighted, the three knights arrived, bringing the dishonest lady and her husband, the badly wounded knight, on a litter. The three knights placed the lady in the hands of the King on behalf of a new knight and told him what had happened. The King crossed himself many times when he heard of the woman's treachery and was very grateful to the knight for sending her.

No one knew that the Childe of the Sea was that knight, except for his lady Oriana and the other damsels, as ye have heard earlier. Instead, everyone thought that he had left to see his foster-father Gandales.

The King said to the knight in the litter:

"A woman as treacherous as your wife should not be allowed to live."

"My lord," he said, "do as ye must, but I will never consent to killing the thing that I love most in the world."

He bid farewell to the King and had himself carried out in his litter.

The King said to the lady:

"By God, he was more loyal to you than ye to him, and I will make you pay for your disloyalty." And he ordered her to be burned.

The King wondered a great deal about who could be the knight who had sent them, and the squire in whose castle the Childe of the Sea had stayed said:

"Perhaps he was the new knight who was with me and a damsel from Denmark who arrived here today."

"What knight is this?" the King said.

"My lord," the squire said, "he is very young and so handsome it is a marvel to see him, and I saw him fight so well and so quickly that if he has the good fortune to live, he will be the best knight in the world."

Then he told the King what he had seen and how he had saved King Perion from death.

"Do ye know what his name is?" the King said.

"No, my lord," he said. "In fact he kept that very secret."

Then the King and everyone wanted more than ever to know it. The squire said:

"The damsel spent more time with him than I did."

"Is the damsel here?" the King said.

"Yes," he said. "She has come to ask for the daughter of King Lisuarte."

Then the King ordered her to come before him, and she told what she knew and how she had traveled with him because the damsel who gave him the lance had said that she brought it to the best knight who could hold it in his hands.

"That is all I know of him," she said, "but of his name, I know nothing."

"By God, who could it be?" the King said.

But the Chide's beloved did not doubt who it could be. Whenever he was mentioned, she felt great distress because the damsel had told her that she came to ask to take her home, and Oriana knew that the King would agree to send her to her father. If she left, she would not receive such frequent news about he whom she loved more than herself.

Six days passed without more news about him. Then while the King was talking to his son Agrajes, who wished to leave with his war party to Gaul, a damsel entered the room, knelt before them, and said:

"My lord, hear me now before your father."

Then she picked up a helmet so damaged by a sword that no part was left whole, gave it to Agrajes, and said:

"My lord, take this helmet in place of the head of Galpano. I give you it on behalf of a new knight, who is more worthy to bear arms than any other knight in the world. He sent you this helmet because Galpano had dishonored a damsel who traveled in your service."

"What?" he said. "Is Galpano dead at the hands of a knight? By God, damsel, ye have told me something wonderful."

"It is true, my lord," she said. "This knight defeated and killed many men in his castle, and finally he fought him alone and cut off his head, and because it would be offensive to bring that, he said this helmet would suffice."

"Surely," the King said, "that was that same new knight who did this, for in truth his deeds of chivalry are like none other." He asked the damsel if she knew his name.

"Yes, my lord," she said, "but it was hard for me to get it from him."

"By God, tell me it," the King said. "Ye would make me very happy."

"Know, my lord," she said, "that his name is Childe of the Sea."

When he heard this, the King was astonished, as was everyone else, and he said:

"Whoever he went to, asking to be made a knight, he cannot be blamed. The Childe had begged me for a long time to do it, but I delayed, and I did wrong to postpone knighthood to someone who has done such good works."

"Where can we find him?" Agrajes said.

"He commended himself to you," she said, "and told me to tell you that ye will find him at the war in Gaul, if ye go there."

"By God, what good news you tell me," Agrajes said. "Now more than ever I wish to go, and if I find him, I will never willingly be parted from him."

"That would be right," the damsel said, "for he loves you very much."

Great was the joy that all felt with the good news about the Childe of the Sea, most of all his lady Oriana, though she kept it secret more than ever. The King asked the damsels how he had been made a knight, and they told him everything. He said:

"He received more courtesy from you than from me, but I delayed only for his own good, since I thought he was too young."

The damsel told Agrajes the message that she carried, which the story shall recount farther along. He left with a very good party of knights for Gaul.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Double-O Dudley Do-Right

[Glazed paving block, 13th to 15th century, from the Musée d'Art et d'Archéologie de Laon, in Picardy, northern France.]


The knight-errant Amadis is sort of a combination of Dudley Do-Right and James Bond. Like Dudley Do-Right, the cartoon Canadian Mountie, he is a "lonely defender of justice and fair play: handsome, brave, daring," who always does right and always gets his man. But like Bond, James Bond, he has a license to kill. And he has a magic lance to help him do it.

Amadis is a super-hero as well as a paragon knight.

But what were real knights supposed to do? In medieval Iberia, royal courts encouraged tales like Amadis as a means to instill good behavior among their knights.

Spanish author Ramon Llull, in the 1283 manual Book on the Order of Knighthood, says:

"The knight must ride, joust, fight, bear arms, take part in tournaments, participate in round tables, fight with swords; hunt deer, bears, wild boars, lions; and do all the other things like this that are part of the office of knight, since by all these things knights become adept at deeds of arms and maintaining the order of chivalry....

"The knight must hesitate more before the vituperation of the people than before death; and shame must cause more suffering to his spirit than hunger, thirst, heat, cold, or other discomfort or physical effort.... Chivalry... commences with justice and by protecting humble men against the prideful and unjust."

Knights pledged before God to protect the weak, defenseless, and helpless, and fight for the general welfare of all. Or at least they were supposed to. Ye have heard tell of evil knights from the beginning of this novel.

Amadis shows us a shining example of chivalry: loyal, obedient, humble, chaste, pious, and ever willing to do justice and protect the weak. Evil-doers must die, and he's the man to take them out.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Chapter 6

[A "great helm" war helmet.]


How the Childe of the Sea fought with the foot soldiers of the knight called Galpano, then with the brothers of the lord of the castle and with the lord himself, and killed him without mercy.

As the Childe of the Sea neared the castle, he saw a damsel in great sorrow coming from it, with a squire and a youth who waited on her. The damsel was very beautiful with lovely hair, which she was tearing out. The Childe of the Sea said to her:

"My friend, what has caused such distress?"

"Oh, my lord," she said, "it is so bad that I cannot tell you."

"Tell me," he said, "and if can I can rightly remedy it for you, I will."

"My lord," she said, "I am traveling with a message from my lord for a young knight who is widely known for his goodness, and four foot soldiers captured me and took me to that castle where I was dishonored by a traitor, and worst of all he made me swear that I will never have another lover as long as he lives."

The Childe took the reins of her horse and told her:

"Come with me, and I will you get justice if I can."

As he rode on holding the reins, he asked her who the knight was to whom she brought her message.

"Ye shall know it," she said, "if ye avenge me. I can tell you that he would be greatly hurt if he were to learn of my dishonor."

"That is certain," said the Childe of the Sea.

They found the four foot soldiers, and the Childe of the Sea told them:

"Evil traitors, why did you do wrong to this damsel?"

"Should we fear that ye can do her justice?" they said.

"Now ye shall see," he said.

He took his sword in hand and charged at one of them who had raised a battle ax, and gave him such a blow that he cut off his arm, which fell to the ground. The foot soldier collapsed, shouting. Then the Childe struck another across the nose and cut him from ear to ear. When the other two saw this, they began to flee towards a river through the underbrush.

He put his sword in its scabbard, took the damsel's horse by the reins, and said, "Let us continue."

The damsel told him:

"Near here there is a castle gate where I saw two armed knights."

"In that case, I want to see them," he said. "Damsel, follow me and fear not."

They entered the gate of the castle, where he saw an armed knight on horseback, and when they had entered, the gate was dropped down shut behind them. The knight said arrogantly:

"Come and receive your dishonor."

"Let us leave this to be seen," said the Childe. "But were ye the one who forced himself on this damsel?"

"No," said the knight, "but if I were, what of it?"

"I will avenge her if I can," he said.

"Then I want to see how ye fight." He charged at him as fast as his horse could carry him, but he missed with his blow. The Childe of the Sea struck him on his shield with his lance so hard that all the knight's armor failed. The iron tip pierced through to his back and knocked him dead to the ground. The Childe pulled free his lance and charged at another knight that was coming toward him, who said:

"Ye chose a bad time to enter here."

The knight hit him on the shield and his lance passed through it, but the iron tip was stopped by the Childe's hauberk, which was sturdy. The Childe struck the knight's helmet with his lance and knocked it from his head, and the knight tumbled to the ground, unable to stop his fall. As he saw that he was in trouble, he began to shout, and three armed foot soldiers ran out from a room. He told them:

"Kill this traitor."

They attacked the Childe's horse so that it fell while he was on it, but he got up infuriated because they had killed it. He hit the knight in the face with his lance, and the iron tip came out between his ear and his neck, and he fell immediately. The Childe turned toward the foot soldiers who were attacking him and who had injured his shoulder, from which he lost much blood, but such was his fury that he did not feel it. He swung his sword at the head of the soldier who had wounded him, and cut off his ear, then his face, and more, and the sword descended to his chest.

The other two fled to a courtyard, shouting:

"Come, our lord, come, or we are all dead."

The Childe of the Sea mounted the horse of the knight he had killed and rode after them. He saw an unarmed knight in a doorway, who said:

"What is this, knight? Did ye come here to kill my men?"

"I came," he said, "to avenge this damsel who was taken here by force, if I can find the one who did it."

The damsel said:

"My lord, this is the one by whom I was dishonored."

The Childe of the Sea told him:

"Arrogant knight, full of villainy, now ye shall pay for the evil that ye did. Arm yourself at once. If not, I must kill you unarmed, for with evildoers like you, one should have no restraint."

"My lord," said the damsel, "kill this traitor and do not let him do more evil, for now it is all up to you."

"Vile woman," said the knight, "he picked a bad time to believe you and to come with you." He entered his grand palace, saying, "Wait for me, knight, and do not flee, because ye cannot hide from me anywhere."

"And I tell you," said the Childe of the Sea, "if I were to flee from you here, I would not find peace anywhere."

It did not take long before he saw him come back on a white horse, fully and completely armed. Galpano said:

"Base knight-errant, it was an ill-fated moment for you to see this damsel, because here ye shall lose your head."

When the Childe heard his threat, he became irate and said:

"Now let each protect his own head, and he who does not, shall loose it."

Then they let their horses run, and their lances struck each others' shields, which did not hold. Neither did their hauberks, and the iron tips of the lances entered their flesh. Their bodies, shields and helmets collided so fiercely that both fell to the ground. The Childe landed well and still had his reins in his hand, but Galpano arose injured.

Both put their hands on their swords and held their shields before them, and they fought so bravely that they terrified those who watched. Their shields fell in splinters to the earth, along with many fragments of their hauberks. Their helmets were dented and broken. The courtyard where they fought was stained with blood.

Galpano's head ached from an injury, and blood ran into his eyes. He stepped away to clean them, but the Childe of the Sea, who moved quickly and burned with anger, said:

"What is this, Galpano? Cowardice does not become thee. Hast thou forgotten that thou fightest for thy head, and if thou guardest it poorly, thou shalt loose it?"

Galpano told him:

"Bear with me a moment and let us rest. There is plenty of time for us to fight."

"There is no need for that," said the Childe, "for I do not fight thee out of respect, but to do justice for the damsel whom thou dishonoredst."

And then the Childe struck Galpano's helmet so fiercely that he fell to both knees. He got up and began to defend himself poorly, and Childe no longer had to fight with full force. The other knight was tired, and he could barely lift his sword. He did nothing but try to protect himself with his shield, although it had been cut to pieces on his arm, and nothing remained of it.

Having lost hope, he began to run from one side of the courtyard to another to flee the Child's sword, who gave him no rest. Galpano tried to escape into the tower where he had his men. But the Childe of the Sea reached him before he could climb more than a few steps, grabbed him by the helmet and threw him down so hard that Galpano fell flat onto the ground and the helmet came off in his hand. The Childe raised his sword and gave him such a blow on the neck that his head was severed from his body.

The Childe said to the damsel:

"From today on you can have another lover if ye wish, for he to whom ye swore has been dispatched."

"Blessed be God and you," she said, "for ye have killed him."

He wanted to go up in the tower, but he saw that the stairway had been raised. He mounted Galpano's horse, which was very handsome, and said:

"Let us leave here."

The damsel said:

"Knight, I will take the head of he who dishonored me, and, on your behalf, deliver it to the young man for whom I carry a message."

"Do not take it," he said, "for that would be offensive. Take the helmet in its place."

The damsel agreed, and ordered her squire to carry it. They found the gate left open by those who had fled, and they rode out of the castle.

When they were on the road, the Childe of the Sea said:

"Tell me, who is the young knight to whom you carry the message?"

"Know that it is Agrajes," she said, "son of the King of Scotland."

"Blessed be God that I did not allow him to receive that offense," he said. "I tell you, damsel, that he is the best young knight that I know of now, and if ye had told him of your dishonor, he would have returned your honor to you. Tell him that I, his knight, commend myself to him, and we will meet in the war in Gaul if he goes there to fight."

"My lord," she said, "if ye care for him so much, I ask you to give me a gift."

"Very willingly," he said.

"Then," said the damsel, "tell me your name."

"Damsel," he said, "ye do not wish to know my name now. Ask for some other gift that I can give."

"I wish no other gift," she said.

"May God help me," he said. "Ye are not courteous in wanting to know something from any man against his will."

"Still," she said, "tell me if ye wish to fulfill your promise."

When he saw that he could not avoid it, he said:

"They call me Childe of the Sea."

He left her as quickly as he could and continued down the road. The damsel was joyful to know the name of the knight.

The Childe of the Sea was badly wounded and bled so much that the road was stained with blood, and the horse, which was white, seemed scarlet in many places. He traveled until vespers, when he came to a handsome fortress. An unarmed knight came toward him, and when he reached the Childe, he said:

"My lord, where did you get these injuries?"

"In a castle that I left back there," said the Childe.

"And this horse, how did you get it?"

"I exchanged it for mine, which they had killed," said the Childe.

"And the knight who owned it, what happened to him?"

"Why, he lost his head," said the Childe.

Then the other knight dismounted to kiss his foot. The Childe pushed him away from the stirrup, so instead he kissed the hem of the Childe's hauberk, and said:

"My lord, ye are well come, for you have restored all my honor."

"Sir knight," said the Childe, "do you know where they can heal my wounds?"

"Yes, I know," he said. "In my house a damsel, my niece, will care for you better than any other in this land."

They dismounted, and as they entered the tower, the knight told him:

"My lord, that traitor whom ye killed left me half-dead for a year and a half, and dishonored, and I could not take up arms. He made me loose my good name and swear that I could only be called vanquished by him. Ye have brought my honor back to me."

There they put the Childe of the Sea in a fine bed, and his injuries were tended by the hand of the damsel, who told him that she would make him healthy as long as he did not travel for a few days. He said he would follow all her counsel.


[Note: At the suggestion of a reader, I have substituted Child of the Sea with Childe, which is an archaic, Middle English word meaning "child of noble birth." It is closer to the original Spanish Doncel del Mar, which means "young nobleman."]